When we were created way back in time we came with a fantastic safety mechanism inbuilt into our brains. If we became stressed due to impending danger like the possibility of becoming a menu item for a Saber-tooth Tiger, our body would instinctively enter the “fight or flight” mode. This would set into action a cascade of physiological events in our body that would prove to be life-saving.
In the modern day, there’s a good chance that the threat is more mental or emotional than physical, and the solution does not need us to run like Usain Bolt to save our life.
So how can stress make us fat and lead us also to early Type 2 diabetes?
This is a summary of the physiological process that happens…
- When you become stressed and your body enters the “fight or flight” mode, blood sugar known as glucose is released to give your muscles the energy needed to run and escape.
- In our modern day, most threats that cause us to become stressed are more mental or emotional than physical, means you will not need that extra blood sugar after all.
- Instead of having to ‘run for your life’ to avoid the stressor, now you may be required to continue to sit in what appears to be an endless queue to solve a software problem. You end up speaking to a person in a call centre in a distant part of the world often who you are having major problems understanding as English is their third or fourth language. Your stress level starts to go ‘through the roof’!
- The physiological result is that your body must produce more insulin to keep your elevated blood sugar levels in check, and when you’re stressed out, your blood sugar levels will probably stay elevated much longer than they would otherwise, ultimately promoting weight gain and Type 2 diabetes.
- When you’re under stress, your blood sugar levels may take up to six times longer to return to normal after a meal than they would if you were not stressed.
- The cascade of events causing the excess stress can throw your blood sugar way out of balance with detrimental effects on your overall health. The longer your blood sugar stays elevated, the more insulin your body will produce. Your cells can become resistant to insulin and glucose(blood sugar) stays in your blood, negatively affecting another hormone called leptin.
- Leptin is a hormone produced by your fat cells. A function of leptin is to tell your brain you have enough fat stored, and you have eaten enough and to burn calories at a normal rate. When you are stressed this function is reduced.
- When your body is under the stress response, your cortisol and insulin levels rise. These two hormones tend to track each other, and when your cortisol is consistently elevated under a chronic low-level stress response, you may find it very hard losing weight or building muscle. When your cortisol is chronically elevated, you may gain weight around your midsection, which is a major contributing factor to developing diabetes.
This Weeks Video…
Video Effects of Stress – Nervous System – Dr Judy Hinwood
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